The Word

"Some things cannot be written."

“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence." Ansel Adams

I’VE SET MY CAMERA DOWN temporarily. It has been my voice for many years now. When words escape me, I pick it back up again, or at least, figuratively. Once a photographer, always a photographer. Once you’ve been behind the lens, you see everything through it. I don’t have to have it in my hand to frame a shot, to notice the lighting, to pick the right angle. On the opposite side, there are times you have to set the camera down and see the sky, the landscape, the people. I learned this from photographer Ben Horne. Don’t get locked behind the lens and miss the moment.

Words in person escape me. Words on paper do not. And yet, lately, they have as well, because some things cannot be written and to try is to state them inadequately. I could give you every color in the scene and name the wildlife with local nomenclature (folk names), but something about the breath of all of it blending together just isn’t writeable. So is my life.

Here’s where I turn your eyes toward the Word and make some fantastic comparison, but what I think of, instead, is the Pharisees, a class of priests trained in the Old Covenant Law who should have looked at Jesus and fallen back. He was what could not be expressed. Many had tried. Isaiah gives the most beautiful description of Him in chapter 53; the Knox translation (out-of-print) is more beautiful than any other. Still to this day, most Jewish scholars avoid this chapter, unable to see anyone there but Jesus Christ and unwilling to admit it.

“A leper, so we thought of him, a man God had smitten and brought low; and all the while it was for our sins he was wounded, it was guilt of our crushed him down; on him the punishment fell that brought us peace, by his bruises we were healed. Strayed sheep all of us, each following his own path; and God laid on his shoulders our guilt, the guilt of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6 Knox)

He is also pictured in the psalms. King David describes Him as the Shepherd, and though the words are few, how beautiful is His image in the green valley guarding the sheep. David, too, penned the psalm Jesus quoted on the cross, Psalm 22, not because His Father had let go of Him and turned aside but in that people would recognize it and see Him in its words. Yet, these and other prophecies which pointed to Jesus slipped past the Pharisees and other religious leaders like so much chaff. They walked out the prophets’ words, laying the Lamb on the altar, not seeing their actions, but making excuses for their ungodly intentions. And it says in Matthew, Jesus knew their thoughts, knew their desires to kill Him, and He turned aside, leaving the place they were entirely.

We have not faced hate to the point of laying down our lives. Well, I haven’t. I honor those who have. There are no words for that either.

How does one picture Jesus? The disciple John did so twice in the gospel of John and in his revelation. In one he saw the Word, the Life, the Light, the Son of God, the only begotten Son, the Christ, the Lamb of God, Rabbi, the King of Israel. And this is just the first chapter of John. In Revelation 1, He is the faithful witness, the first begotten of the dead, the prince of the kings of the earth, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the Lord which is and was and is to come. Order matters here. We must know He is before we can know who He was and who He is to come. He is he that liveth and was dead, the first and the last.

“When I turned to see the source of the voice that was speaking to me, I first saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was one who appeared to be human, just like a Son of Man. He was wearing a robe flowing down to his feet and had a golden breastplate on his chest; his hair was brilliant white, like snow, and his eyes shone brightly like a fire. His feet glowed like metal in a furnace, and his voice resounded with energy like a roaring river. He held seven stars in his right hand, and the words coming from his mouth were the sharp double-edged sword of truth. His face radiated energy like the sun shining at midday.” (Revelation 1:12-16, Remedy)

We hear the noise around us, like so much water in the stream, a million voices, one over the other, and lose our own, much less hear God speaking. We call Him God, and He is, but that is like saying we ate “bread” or we own a “dog.” Is it a big dog? A small one? A small hairy fat one? Description matters. And so we call Him Jesus. We know He was sent by the Father. We know the Holy Spirit anointed Him. Raised Him from the dead. We read His words, what He said of the Father, and we see His humbleness, His gentleness. We hear His defense of the temple. He was the temple, every element in it. The Pharisees refused to enter Pilate’s court because they wanted to remain pure to celebrate Passover, all the while killing the Passover Lamb. They stood in the temple, their pride on display, while the power of God darkened the sky and ripped the veil from top to bottom. And not too much time later, the temple was razed by the Romans just as Jesus, who they could not see, had said they would.

He is our words unexpressed. He knows our thoughts, can separate them, spirit from soul. We hide our intentions from our mom and dad, our spouse, but cannot hide them from Him. Except He isn’t in the room, not on visual display. There’s no reminder except that still, small voice who is easily passed over. We either fill the silence to ignore the truth or embrace it and say nothing at all. I’m most guilty of the latter, but for me, it is that, like the sunrise, like that perfect picture that I let go, there is no way to express Him at all. He is my inhale. I exhale only to inhale again.

And tonight, I read John 1 in the EasyEnglish version, this particular one only available on a phone app, and felt Him weep at the beauty of it. There were no words, though I had just read them and none to assure you that is what it was. We sing the song, that the earth will grow dim in our gaze of Him, then look outside and see the rainfall. See the news, local, state, national, international. Repeat the news. Complain about the news and end it with a prayer we hope will fill the air. The air we can’t see in the world we can, which is of lesser importance than the Word which was in the beginning, which fills all things and yet, in my heart, tonight, cannot be spoken. Or written. Any better than this.

John 1:1-5 EasyEnglish
“In the beginning, the Word was already there. The Word was with God. The Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 God made all things by the Word. God did not make anything without him. 4 It is the Word who causes us to live. And because of this, he was the light to all people. 5 The light shines in the dark, and the dark cannot put out the light.”

John 1:16 EasyEnglish
“The Word is full of everything that we need. All of us have received from him. We have received one good thing after another good thing.”

Suzanne D. Williams, Author